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Going Low Down Under

The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, West Course
(Private) Cheltenham Road, Black Rock; 011-613-9598-6755. Yardage: 6,589. Par: 72. Rating: 72. Architect: Alister Mackenzie. Green Fee: around $100.

T&L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2

Before designing Augusta National and Cypress Point, Mackenzie sowed the seeds of superb golf Down Under. In 1926 the good doctor laid out Royal Melbourne West and later "influenced" Alex Russell's East course. Some nitpickers complain that only tournament pros get to play the Royal's mix-and-match Composite course, which hosted the Presidents Cup in 1998. But the West course, which includes twelve of the eighteen tournament holes, serves up all the Mackenzie medicine you'll ever need. In fact, the West is arguably Dr. Mac's best-preserved work (though the clubhouse could use a little work). There are no water hazards and little rough on the course, and you can practically land a jumbo jet on the first fairway. But what's really at play here are steep, lightning-fast greens and some of the world's most savage bunkers.

The Victoria Golf Club
(Private) Park Road, Cheltenham; 011-613-9584-1733. Yardage: 6,841. Par: 72. Rating: 73. Architects: Billy Meader and Oscar Damman. Green Fee: $85.

T&L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2

Next-door neighbor Royal Melbourne may have a more august lineage, but good old Victoria is the Sand Belt's secret star. The magnificent, tree-lined fairways are supertight, and the greens have more bunkers than the Aussie troops did at Gallipoli. Oh, and beware of the woods. After Arnold Palmer's second shot came to rest in a hearty eucalyptus tree here years ago, he played his third out of it, fifteen feet off the ground! (The King made bogey.)

The Dunes Golf Links, Championship Course
Brown's Road, Rye; 011-613-5985-1334. Yardage: 7,120. Par: 72. Rating: 73. Architect: Tony Cashmore. Green Fees: $18-24.

T&L GOLF Rating: *** 1/2

Although its twenty-seven holes are cut into sand dunes, Australia's top-rated public-access course, south of town on the Mornington Peninsula, is no day at the beach. Tom Watson said his favorite hole here is the seventeenth, a 197-yard par three. Most Northern Hemisphere golfers loft shots onto the rock-hard greens only to watch their balls kangarooing into the rough. The wizards of Oz say, Lay up, chip gently.

Moonah Links, Open Course
Truemans Road, Rye; 011-613-9602-2566. Yardage: 7,504. Par: 72. Rating: N/A. Architects: Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett. Green Fee: $39.

T&L GOLF Rating: N/A
Built to host the Australian Open in 2003, this brand-new course on the Mornington Peninsula from Aussie design masters Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett debuts this month. And in keeping with the spirit of the event, it will be open (and playable) to everybody.


If you can pull yourself away from the views, the beaches and the fabulous food, a first-rate mix of fairway options awaits.

The Lakes Golf Club
(Private) King Street at Vernon Avenue, Eastlakes; 011-612-9669-1311. Yardage: 6,947. Par: 73. Rating: 75. Architects: Eric Apperley and Tom Howard; redesigned by Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge. Green Fee: $104.

T&L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2

The Lakes plays host to the Greg Norman Holden International, one of the richest events on the PGA Tour of Australasia. No sharks swim here, but this top-rated course seems to have more water than the Great Barrier Reef. Spectacular lake carries, combined with some of Australia's feistiest bunkering, mean you'll need your sharpest game and perhaps even some snorkeling equipment. The course is so pretty, though, you could be lulled into a false sense of security.

New South Wales Golf Club
(Private) Henry Head, La Perouse; 011-612-9661-4455. Yardage: 6,855. Par: 72. Rating: 74. Architect: Alister Mackenzie. Green Fee: $114.

T&L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2

This elite, clifftop, links-style spectacle, another Mackenzie inspiration, has been prime Sydney real estate since Captain James Cook dropped anchor here in 1770, just under where the seventeenth green sits today. The course's most memorable hole is the par-three sixth. Members, though not usually visitors, can cross a weather-beaten bridge to an island tee above the pounding surf. Then they turn around and drive over an inlet to a green that's so small, it seems to mock you.


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